networking-aNo other word in Social Media, marketing, voiceover or business strategizing is more over-used than “networking”.

You’ll hear people toss out that word like they actually know what it means:  “That conference will be a great place for  networking.”  “You’ll have to be better at networking if you want to build your client base.”  She’s so good at networking, and it shows in her success.”

That kind of thing.

Well, most of us KINDA know what “networking” means….I guess.  A network is an interconnected group or association.  Most would agree it’s an advantage to be part of a network of like-minded people.  Two heads are better than one and all that. 

But one gets the sense that “networking” has a distinctly different meaning in this new digital world.  At its root, networking in this realm means raising your profile to the greater community at large; among peers and prospects.  Successfully done, this kind of networking will yield results, but the hard numbers are maddeningly hard to come by.  Just so you know.

Hey, I’m no expert, but let me float a few ideas about networking in the new media age, and how it might help your VO business.

  1. Social Media Networking
    Some voice-actors can’t stand Twitter, much less Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, or Quora.  But most people have at least a passing presence on Facebook so if you’re a social media naysayer, there’s social media networking hope for you there, ’cause Facebook is the 800 lb. Gorilla of the digital world.  Bypass all the fluff and the frivolous posts, and focus on the professional groups.  In the VoiceOver Pros group that Terry Daniel and I administer, the free flow of information and troubleshooting is invaluable.  Jobs are shared, good deals on equipment come to light, and answers to tough questions can usually be found.  People will start to recognize and remember you.
  2. Social Media Networking (part 2)
    But just attending, and lurking isn’t enough.  You’ve gotta speak up.  You’ll find the moment, the conversation,      the thread that you KNOW you can contribute something to.  Offer up some tidbit, a factoid, a link, even a picture or a video.  Contribute to the community.  Pay it forward.  That’s networking too.
  3. Conferences
    Nothing comes close to a handshake, and an eye-to-eye meeting for the best human networking possible.  It might even lead to a conversation over lunch or the sharing of a few honest truths at the bar later.  Regardless, voice actors work in solitary for the most part, so rubbing shoulders with others of our species almost makes you feel human.  See and be seen.   (attending online webinars falls in this category – be sure to use the “chat” function)
  4. Phone calls  Here’s the thing about phone calls and other forms of traditional communication (see 5 & 6 below):  they can’t ALWAYS be self-serving.  Sure, it’s fine to call a friend for a favor.  But once in a while, call just to call.  Remember people’s spouse’s names.  Write down where their kids are going to college.  Tell the person on the other end of the line that you appreciated what they did recently to help someone, or that they unknowingly opened up a door for you.  Build up a bank account of good will.
  5. Emails, mass and otherwise Personally, my day revolves around emails.  But I’m comfortable writing and can type 100 wpm.  That may not be your strength, but despite the predictions of emails imminent demise, it’s still the #1 means of communication in the business world.  Texting falls in this category, too, since it’s become so popular with FB messenger and smartphones.  Often networking with the written word gives you more of a chance to think about what you’re saying, rather than a live phone call.
  6. Newsletters This is a mass-mail too, but typically carrying a more pointed message — as in prospecting or sharing, like a new demo, a video, or a really good blog.  Newsletters tend to be one-way communications, so in that sense the networking only happens when you get a response…but that was probably the goal of the newsletter in the first place, anyway.
  7. Traditional (old fashioned) Postcards.  Swag.  Hand-written letters.  Offers of help.  Personal visits.
  8. Creative  Master this category, and you’re way ahead of all of us.  Something unique always catches the eye and gets noticed for the way it stands out from the crowd.  Only YOU know what manifestation this will take, ’cause you too, are unique, and have a special set of skills, personality, and talent that results in the amazing networking idea that works just right for you!

Honorable mention:  Research.  With the amazing tools at our disposal online now…you have no excuse for making a “cold” call.  Make a “warm” call after an online review of the person at XYZ company or studio who makes the talent hires.  Maybe he/she went to the same college, or has the same strange first name as your mom that makes you memorable in an opening conversation.  Before you walk into the conference, find out who’s attending.  When you see something incredibly helpful in a FB post, look up that person’s profile on LinkedIn to find a commonality that you can build on. 

See?  Much of “networking” may just come naturally to you.  But augment your already solid network of voice-over resources with the 8 ideas above, and reach a master-level proficiency.

What did I miss?  Got a great networking idea you’d like to share?  Please post it in the comments below.

CourVO

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